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FMCSA’s Pre-Employment Screening Program Sees Heightened Interest Following NTSB Findings

By Jeff Secrist Chief, Registration, Licensing & Insurance Division Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Office of Registration & Safety Information

Date: 10/30/2018

In mid-March, truck driver Benjamin Brewer was sentenced to 55 years in prison for killing six people and injuring four others when his tractor-trailer struck slowed traffic in a work zone. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation of the crash showed that the company’s pre-hire driver qualification program did not include a check of the driver’s Pre-Employment Screening Program (PSP) record. The trucking company, Cool Runnings Express, performed the minimum pre-employment record checks required under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, but failed to conduct a thorough investigation of Mr. Brewer’s driving history. When presented with the driver’s full crash and violation history, both Cool Runnings Express and the legal advisor for the carrier’s insurance company stated they would not have approved the driver for hire.

To help motor carriers make more informed hiring decisions, FMCSA implemented PSP in May 2010. PSP is a voluntary program that provides truck and bus companies instant, secure access to drivers’ most recent five years of crash data and three years of inspection data from the FMCSA Motor Carrier Management Information System. Unlike the driver’s motor vehicle record (MVR), which Cool Runnings Express had obtained and reviewed, PSP records contain all violations found during a roadside inspection, not just those for which a driver was issued a citation. Updated monthly, PSP records often provide more timely access to this information than the MVR, because all MVR citations are subject to the state’s adjudication process. PSP records include adjudications of citations, provided the driver first files a Request for Data Review through the DataQs system.

PSP helps carriers obtain a more complete understanding of their prospective hires’ driving history. Using a PSP record, motor carriers can identify and investigate gaps in employment history by reviewing the name and DOT number of the company for whom the driver was operating at the time of a crash or inspection.  

PSP works. According an FMCSA study, motor carriers using PSP experienced improvements in both out-of-service and crash rates during the time period studied. On average, motor carriers’ out-of-services rates were 17% better than their peers who did not use PSP.  Likewise, the motor carriers that leveraged PSP had an average of 8% less crashes than the group who skipped using PSP during the hiring process.  Due in large part to these findings, NTSB concluded that “PSP is an effective, yet underutilized, tool to improve pre-employment reviews.”

Indeed, despite the strong evidence for using PSP, the tool is tremendously underutilized. Estimates suggested that PSP is used by only 40 percent of the industry actively hiring new drivers. This puts carriers who have already adopted PSP at a competitive advantage – one they would no doubt like to keep.

Using PSP is one way a motor carrier can go “beyond compliance” with the regulatory minimums while searching for the safest drivers to operate trucks and buses. The PSP website and mobile app provide access to critical information anywhere, making it increasingly easy to ensure hiring managers have more quality information to support important hiring decisions.

FMCSA is committed to increasing the number of carriers who use PSP, since participation is critical to maximizing the program’s contributions to road safety. Motor carriers can sign up for PSP using the new enrollment wizard. The enrollment wizard walks users through a series of simple questions in a few short pages, making the sign-up process quick and easy. Hiring the safest drivers can prevent crashes and saves lives. Sign up today at www.psp.fmcsa.dot.gov!